How couples with dementia experience healthcare, lifestyle, and everyday decision-making

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Citation:
International Psychogeriatrics, 2018, 30 (11), pp. 1639 - 1647
Issue Date:
2018-11-01
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Copyright © International Psychogeriatric Association 2018. Objectives: Recent research has demonstrated the challenges to self-identity associated with dementia, and the importance of maintaining involvement in decision-making while adjusting to changes in role and lifestyle. This study aimed to understand the lived experiences of couples living with dementia, with respect to healthcare, lifestyle, and everyday decision-making.Design: Semi-structured qualitative interviews using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis as the methodological approach.Setting: Community and residential care settings in Australia.Participants: Twenty eight participants who self-identified as being in a close and continuing relationship (N = 13 people with dementia, N = 15 spouse partners). Nine couples were interviewed together.Results: Participants described a spectrum of decision-making approaches (independent, joint, supported, and substituted), with these approaches often intertwining in everyday life. Couples' approaches to decision-making were influenced by decisional, individual, relational, and external factors. The overarching themes of knowing and being known, maintaining and re-defining couplehood and relational decision-making, are used to interpret these experiences. The spousal relationship provided an important context for decision-making, with couples expressing a history and ongoing preference for joint decision-making, as an integral part of their experience of couplehood. However, the progressive impairments associated with dementia presented challenges to maintaining joint decision-making and mutuality in the relationship.Conclusions: This study illustrates relational perspectives on decision-making in couples with dementia. Post-diagnostic support, education resources, proactive dyadic interventions, and assistance for spouse care partners may facilitate more productive attempts at joint decision-making by couples living with dementia.
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